I got the chance to check out a new high-end laser cutter called the Makeblock Laserbox. I’ve done several laser reviews in the past; I’ll be comparing the Laserbox to the lower end units from OM Tech and Makeblock’s close competitors in the Full Spectrum Muse and Glowforge.
Note: Makeblock supplies this unit for free for review. They have not directed anything I say; all opinions are my own. I do get a commission if you use my link to purchase.
Makeblock sent the Laser Box Basic unit to test. Other than the color, this is identical to the Pro unit, the main difference being software features and the warranty’s length. We will go over those details more in a minute.
But first, let’s dive right into the specs!
Overall this unit compares nicely to the Full Spectrum Muse and Glowforge. Glowforge leads the way in creating a new category of higher end CO2 machines designed to sit on the desktop. Most of these units will feature integrated cooling, internal cameras, autofocus, smaller footprint, air assist as well as streamlined software.
The Laserbox has a solid construction with a hard plastic frame and glass top. Opening up the machine for the first time, I was impressed with the lid’s hinges. I know that doesn’t sound like much but compared to other units where the top can feel pretty cheap, this was a nice upgrade.
The unit itself is straightforward. The basic unit doesn’t include an external air filter, so the only thing to hook up is power and a supplied external fan for air ventilation.
Everything was packaged neatly inside the unit’s bed, and I was up and running in about 30 minutes after getting it out of the box.
The laser head moves along linear rails and contains a honeycomb bed. For the cheaper units the bed always needs upgrading. It was great to see the included honeycomb design since it allows ample airflow around the workpiece.
The glass laser tube is in the back of the machine and is water cooled. Typically the water is stored in an external reservoir that is then pumped through the unit. The Laserbox hides all of this internally!
I had to double-check that I wasn’t missing anything and Makeblock let me know that the side panel could be removed to refill the distilled water tank as needed. This is a big plus to this machine. I love not having to deal with the water system which is normally just a bucket with a small aqurium pump.
The Makeblock Laserbox comes with a 40W glass CO2 laser tube. Again this is pretty standard for these style machines. The length of the glass tube increases as you step up in wattage so to balance power and size, 40W seems to be a sweet spot. If you want to step up in wattage, check out the larger machines from OM Tech).
Because of the large glass top, the tube is visible under the lid at the machine’s back. I loved being able to watch the laser fire as it was running through the various tests.
The laser head is contained in one unit with a removable magnetic cover. Once this is open, you’re able to view and change out the lens plus see the air assist system. Having air assist is a must for any CO2 laser.
This is an air nozzle pointed directly at the laser’s focusing point that is continually putting out any flames on the material. An internal compressor drives the air. On cheaper units, that compressor (like the water pump) is separate from the unit.
With the laser head exposed, you can also see the screw for the autofocus. There were a few times I was trying to dial in focus, so it was helpful to be able to quickly remove the magnetic cover and see where the end of the laser was when compared to the workpiece.
The biggest draw back to this machine is the exhaust primarily due to the fact that there is no internal fan. Now they do provide a fan with the basic unit that does an awesome job once connected. On the Pro unit a separate smart smoke purifier is included that also serves as a fan to draw smoke out of the machine.
It would have been nice if there was some type of internal fan so you didn’t have to always run the external one, but when everything is connected is works great. I love the flue design of the unit, the entire back of the laser is clear so smoke and fumes have a clear path to the port on the back of the unit.
The exhaust port is 2.5 in compared to the normal 4 in. But again I didn’t have an issues with air flow when the fan was running, it was just loud.
Like the Full Spectrum Muse and Glowforge the Laserbox includes an integrated camera. Their camera has a wide angle lens that stays connected to the lid of the machine. This is the same as the setup on the Glowforge. The Muse has the camera attached to the laser head itself and has to “scan” the material to capture an entire image.
The camera will only work with the lid down and it’s not a live preview. Rather it takes a picture every time the lid closes which then lets you line up your artwork in software.
A unique design aspect to the Laserbox is the removable tray. While the Full Spectrum Muse has a removable bottom and the Glowforge Pro has a pass through slot, the removable tray lets you quickly remove any debris that falls through the honeycomb during cutting. Since the honeycomb tray is screwed down this makes it real easy to clean out the machine between cuts.
A 40W CO2 laser tube is able to engrave and cut the following:
In addition to cutting you can also engrave harder materials like stone and tile.
You are not able to engrave metal. To do that you’ll need to upgrade to a fiber laser. But you can get a metal engraved effect by coating the metal first (either with a marking spray or powder-coating).
The Laserbox also has the ability to auto recognize materials if they are bought directly from Makeblock. This will include a special QR style code that is read by the camera once a material is inserted. The software then adjusts the laser height as well as optimizing settings to both cut and engrave.
I was able to test this out on some supplied Basswood and it worked great!
My favorite part about this machine is its overall ease of use and the included software is a big part of that. The Laserbox comes with it’s own custom software al called Laserbox which works on both Mac and PC.
The software features are pretty standard and includes some basic vector creation abilities as well as setting power/speed for all the laser passes.
Where Laserbox stands out is in a few of its advanced functions, these include Image Extraction and Bring a Sketch to Life (not the catchiest of names I know…)
The basic unit supports Image Extraction which allows you to place a graphic inside the laser and the software will convert it into a vector or raster format that can then be engraved/cut on a piece of material.
I tested this with a Chick-fil-A sauce package we had laying around and it did a pretty good job with extraction. The key to this will be having a pretty clean image that it can take a picture of. A great use case for this is pulling written recipes and engraving them on cutting boards!
Bring a Sketch to Life allows you to draw directly on a workpiece and then the Laserbox will cut along those lines. Since this was a Pro feature I wasn’t able to test it but I could see this being a great way for someone new to using a laser to start.
Another advantage of the software is it does not require internet unlike the Glowforge. While you won’t get the automatic software updates you don’t need to have a strong WIFI signal in your shop.
The Makeblock Laserbox comes in a basic and pro version. The only real difference between the two being software abilities and warranty.
With the pro you’ll unlock a few new AI powered features and extend the warranty from 6 month to 12.
A laser beam isn’t something you want to mess around with. The Laserbox does a great job keeping you safe while it's working. They advertise an early warning system that shuts off the machine if it senses overheating or water cooling errors. Both of which could lead to damaging the laser tube and/or starting a fire inside the actual machine.
When I film my reviews I will often run the machine with the top open. This is NOT recommended but lets me get better shots of the laser while running. I wasn’t able to do this with the Laserbox, there are even a few tricks I’ve done in the past that will trick the magnetic sensor in the lid that wouldn’t work.
And that is a great thing, the lid has to be closed and everything operating like it should before the laser will actually fire!
Laserbox also advertises CE, FCC, and FDA certifications
So how does this actually cut and engrave?
Overall you are able to get finished results that are on par with the Glowforge and Full Spectrum Muse. The software included several sample projects that all turned out great.
I also did a quick raster engrave of Baby Yoda with great results.
Like with any laser you’ll spend some time dialing in the settings for you specific situation especially if you are using materials not provided for my Makeblock.
At the time of this review the Makeblock Laser Box Basic is $4,100 and the Pro is $4,600. Since this is a Chinese supplier you might have additional import fees and taxes depending on your location.
Overall the Makeblock Laserbox will give you a final product on pair with similar desktop style CO2 lasers. Where the Laserbox stands out is in its overall ease of use and focus on safety. This is a great option for a classroom for maker space. The software does not require an internet connection which is a plus compared to the Glowforge. But you won’t be able to get as deep into the settings as you could with the Full Spectrum Muse or higher pro style machines.